STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Of all the times to open a restaurant, these proprietors chose 2020. Or maybe 2020 chose them to be the sunshine in an otherwise gloomy year.
“Everyone’s thankful to the community for their support of small business. Hopefully everyone continues to do that so when the good times come we can be back to normal,” said Mark Bellmier, co-owner of In Fine Fettle health food eatery of Castleton Corners. He and business partner Gary Brower opened their second location on Nov. 1 in Annadale.
As this is written, there are 1,047 licensed restaurants on Staten Island. At the beginning of the year Staten Island played home to just over 1,000 establishments. So, we’re still growing and that’s promising.
Soon we’ll see Babbakoos in Rosebank, Taco Bell in Port Richmond on Forest Avenue, a Jewish deli on the South Shore at a location to be announced and a reboot of Bootleg Mannings with a fresh concept, name and ownership. Campania in Dongan Hills will open after the new year. The city wanted Campania owner Joe LaRocca to install sprinklers, a project almost completed.
Also on its way are a slew of enterprises in the Roman Blum Shopping Complex in the works in Mariners Harbor. In that development by Stewart Waldman, you’ll find in early 2021 a Popeye’s, Asian Foods Market (relocated from Travis), Burger King and other retail outfits.
Here are the few places to set up shop this year. Let’s take a look at some of the eateries new to the borough.
MCDONALD’S, MIDLAND BEACH (McDonalds.com)
In January, the crowd at the grand reopening of the Midland Beach Mickey D’s was so large that managers and the Iraci family, the owners, limited the number of patrons in the dining room. Customers were thrilled to welcome the Golden Arches back to Hylan Boulevard, especially since the one in Dongan Hills had shuttered permanently.
Guests of the new restaurant experienced a state-of-the-art restaurant with kiosks and a pair of color-lighted tables for children. Gone was the PlaySpace that was part of the structure’s architecture since its inception in 1974.
The two lane drive-thru proved a boon to the business and it was a stroke of luck that the feature was in place prior to the pandemic.
BRAVO PIZZA, NEW DORP (BravoPizzaSI.com)
It took several months to open but owners Mike Libretta and Frank Russo finally did so in February.
Back in the 1960s, the New Dorp location served as Pizza Clown. When Gennaro “Jerry” Chiarello and wife, Maria, bought the business, they turned the then white-and-red rounded tent structure into Pizza Town USA. By 1980, Jerry Chiarello built a new restaurant, a block-shaped 5,000-square-feet building with a casual dining area plus a side room for more formal supping and private parties. It closed on May 31, 2018. (The Gennaro’s of Rab’s Bowling continues in Dongan Hills.)
Libretta hoped to capture the attention of neighboring New Dorp High School and introduce late-night bites as well.
As we know, things didn’t quite turn out that way between school closures and curfews. But the Libretta family is well-known for its New York City parlors and Bravo’s pizza draws raves.
FIG & VINE, NEW DORP BEACH (Facebook.com/FigAndVineNYC/) — Temporarily closed
Fig & Vine opened in February, 2020 and took the place of the former, beloved Ni-Ni’s. Owners Jessica and Mike Strickland also run West Shore Inn, a steakhouse in Travis known for its Thursday $21.99 Prime Rib Night.
“I’ve had the West Shore Inn for nine years. You don’t want to be stagnant,” Strickland said. The ribeye is the signature dish here. Well, it will be once again when the restaurant reopens. Stuck in the Orange Zone with no dining in November, Fig & Vine decided to take a break and come back when indoor dining returns. Fans of Mama Hazel’s pecan pie can find the family’s famed dessert at West Shore Inn or online at MamaHazels.com.
PASTAVINO, NAVY PIER TAPROOM AND NAVY PIER PRIME, URBY IN STAPLETON — Temporarily closed
The news that celebrity chefs Vic Rallo and Dave Pasternack were closing their pair of top-notch restaurants came on Jan. 31. From that bad news came three restaurant concepts. Pastavino took the place of Barca with a modest, “affordable” menu centered around chef Josh Laurano’s housemade pastas. Manager John Gorga and Laurano also tended to the re-opening of the Surf space with Navy Pier Taproom and, upstairs, more formal Navy Pier Prime with steaks and a hefty wine list. The to-go only thing wasn’t working for them so they’ll hibernate for a short while.
RUSTIC PIZZA AND PASTERIA, GRANT CITY (RusticPizzaPasteria.com)
Formerly Kim Cooks and Caters — and just one year prior Corner House BBQ Express — this pizzeria features an unusual dough, one that’s almost like a biscuit crossed with New York-style and airy-light pie crusts. Childhood friends Peter Botros and Doug Bifulco own the joint with Phil Farinacci.
“We’ve had a tremendous response from customers. We get calls almost every night from people who say we’re they’re go-to pizzeria. We’re growing every week. We’re expanding our delivery zones and hiring more drivers,” said the entrepreneur.
Top items at Rustic are Pappardelle Bolognese made with from-scratch noodles, Chicken Balsamico, artisan pies and Not-Knots, pizza dough rolled like a croissant.
BACI, DONGAN HILLS (Baci via Facebook)
To celebrate the grand opening of Baci (”kisses” in Italian) over the summer, an open-air party for family and friends showcased the roof top dining room and handsome dining rooms. And the effort comes from Alessandro (Alex) Borgognone, a Staten Islander who built his reputation on Chumley’s, an original Prohibition-era speakeasy, and Sushi Nakazawa, an upscale Japanese sushi eatery, both in Manhattan. On this menu is carefully crafted Southern Italian fare.
SALLY’S SOUTHERN, WEST BRIGHTON (SallysSouthern.com)
The corner house at Kissel and Forest Avenues broadcast its arrival to the eating scene with bodacious blue and red colors. About a year later, it finally opened on Sept. 28, 2020 with shrimp ‘n’ grits and admirable steak.
Other highlights on the menu include chicken-fried steak, a chicken ‘n’ biscuit sandwich with vinegar-based cole slaw and a beefy burger with toppings like bleu cheese and caramelized onions.
There is no outdoor dining in the winter but sidewalk seating is available come spring and summer.
This is another project by Farinacci, Botros and Bifulco. It is open for lunch and dinner pickup. Note that their other collaboration “Sofia’s Guac Bar” also has reopened at the Staten Island Mall.
NEW KINGS PIZZA, WILLOWBROOK (Facebook.com/NewkingsPizzeria)
Pizza is back in Willowbrook! It comes as a redux of former Kings, a neighborhood parlor with a 39-year run that shut in October 2018.
Long time patrons of the place at 2212 Victory Boulevard can be reacquainted with veteran workers Juan Rojas and Marco Ortiz. They and partners Benito Rojas and Riccardo Ortiz renovated the existing front parlor and spruced up its adjoining dining room.
For Juan who started in the business as a dishwasher this is a dream come true. It might be difficult navigating in this coronavirus era, he said, but he’s thrilled to be making pizzas for Staten Island once again. Also, Kings was known for its entrees like salmon with spinach and spuds.
REGGIANO’S II, GREAT KILLS (Facebook.com/pages/Reggiano)
With its expansive outdoor section, Ronnie Bartiromo and Frank Mirabella have great hopes for 4126 Hylan Boulevard. As Reggiano’s II, the Great Kills spot offers big portions of affordable Italian fare plus pizzas, mirroring the successful format established at the original Reggiano’s in Tottenville.
The new operation — located in the spot of former Capizzi and, prior to that La Bella’s — opened officially in July with a limited set of offerings. The staff makes its own mozz. Traditional and gourmet pizzas are a mainstay of the menu.
AVANTI, NEW DORP (AvantisNewDorp.com)
Giacamo’s on New Dorp Lane just became Avanti’s, a pizzeria, as of Friday, Oct. 16. Avanti has two other locations — Bay Ridge and Bulls Head. The location is a long-time home to pizzerias including Villa Monte.
THE PHOENIX, WEST BRIGHTON — Temporarily closed
The digs formerly known as Liberty Tavern and Liberty Tavern Grill rose once again over the summer as The Phoenix. However, it. now closed until the shutdowns are done.
IN FINE FETTLE, ANNADALE (InFineFettle.com)
About five years ago, Gary Brower and Mark Bellmier discovered health principles espoused by Max Gerson, a physician who believed in a dietary approach to tackling maladies such as tuberculosis and cancer.
The childhood friends hoped to one day put the salubrious-minded philosophies into a restaurant setting.
That day has come as their salad and juice bar concept launches with the soft opening of “In Fine Fettle” at 961 Jewett Ave. in Meiers Corners.
The restaurant’s throwback moniker is “an expression that indicates you’re in good condition and in good health,” Gary said. “Now there’s a lot of health benefits to juicing that can help us avoid having to go to the doctor.”
PURE JUICERY, ANNADALE (PureJuiceryDrink.com.)
Suzanne Schechtman and husband Bryan subscribe to this kind of eating regimen. Menu items like Avocado Mash Toast and Turkey Avocado wraps with arugula and red onion fit right into their own diet repertoires. In fact, since the business started in August, Suzanne confesses that the couple is really enjoying their own creations and the couple has lost quite a bit of weight.
SWEETS ‘N’ SUCH (Loc8nearme.com/new-york/staten-island)
Angela and Steven Aviles think Sweets ‘n’ Such is a perfect fit for New Dorp Plaza.
The New Brighton residents just opened their splashy-colored store filled with almost 130 varieties of chocolates, gummies and confections.
Originally the Avileses looked to establish a kids’ party place. Plans didn’t work out so the couple talked about it over the summer and Angela thought about a candy concept.
“I love candy! Candy spreads happiness. A piece of chocolate puts a smile on your face, right?” she told the Advance in a prior report.
RALPH’S SPORTS BAR, DONGAN HILLS (RalphsSportsBarSI.com)
It’s supposed to be a charming pub with high ceilings and brick-lined walls, the cozy, comfy digs of former Chris’s Polish Place and, prior to that, famed Carol’s Cuisine. Instead, Ralph Tafuri operates out of a make-shift, roadside dining room. Food includes wings and yummy soups like a butternut squash with toasted pumpkin seeds and fried prosciutto.
SHOPRITE’S RESTAURANTS, NEW DORP (ShopRite.com)
Not only does New Dorp claim a brand new supermarket but it is also home to five new eateries in its spacious 70,000-square foot digs. Valducci’s sells pizza and Italian fare. Loon Chuan gives us sushi and Chinese food. Saladworks presents custom-made salads. Juice Press offers smoothies, wraps, salads, tapas and cold=pressed juices and juice shots. Dunkin’ allows us to run on Dunkin.’ The store itself is set up like a city so these operations look like little shops in a downtown setting.
CHINA CHALET, ELTINGVILLE (ChinaChaletStatenIsland.com)
The long-time Chinese spot once home to Lum Chin reopened on Sunday, Nov. 1. Former employees of the former China Chalet have stayed on under the new ownership which keeps the same moniker.
TOASTED S’MORES CO., CHARLESTON (Instagram.com/toastedsmoresco/)
Project Brunch blasted onto the non-dining scene with a popup restaurant concept called Toasted S’Mores Co. in Charleston — 4553 Arthur Kill Rd., 718-605-9866; ProjectBrunch.com. Owner Jodi Guagliardo makes marshmallows from scratch as well as the cookies and candies around them. Other yumminess to expect from the sweet spot — hand-dipped, tricked out pretzels and chocolate bombs that explode with the addition of hot milk.
Guagliardo loves partnering with other small local businesses. She uses her neighboring DIY shop, Board and Brush for props to display s’mores. These can be purchased for the home for s’more- and hot chocolate-centric celebrations. Soon Toasted S’mores Co. will offer igloo dining for the outdoors, a concept inspired by restaurant pal Kim Beckett from Burrito Bar in West Brighton. Guagliardo also connected with Superior Chocolate in Bloomfield to use their milk and dark chocolate bark.
IGLOOS AT EGGER’S (EggersIceCream.com)
Egger’s owner Danielle Raleigh brought igloos to Staten Island at Historic Richmond Town. And the concept is pretty cool, sprawled out on the lawn near Boardwalk Empire at 441 Clarke Ave., Richmond. They are available by reservation only on the Egger’s website, Eggersicecream.com.
Raleigh started a “thing” with the igloos, now found at several other eateries. Each accommodates two to eight guests. There is a $30 reservation fee that includes a 45 to 50 minutes experience at a minimum of $10 worth of food and beverage ordered per person. Menu options include make-your-own-cocoa station or holiday coffee plus a make-your-own sundae. Adults can have a sundae of choice or a holiday confection box. Each child leaves with a goody bag.
WYNWOOD STREET EATS, STAPLETON, (Facebook.com/WynwoodStatenIsland) — Temporarily closed
Wynwood Street Eats debuted at the Urby complex in Stapleton with its all-day breakfast, burger and sandwich program. About four weeks into the business’ lifespan, owner Mike LiDonni realized something clicked rather nicely.
“I went to open the restaurant on Sundays and we had people waiting outside for us,” he said. So LiDonni decided to open an hour earlier on that day to accommodate the early birds. Hopefully the momentum can be there once again when the restaurant reopens upon indoor dining’s return.
Located at 24 Navy Pier Ct., Wynwood takes the name of a Florida town and its theme reflects a tropical feel. Decor remains from former iterations Vice (closed in November) and Gringos (closed June, 2019.)
DICKIE’S DELI, WEST BRIGHTON
Dick’s Deli closed in West Brighton in March yet reopened on Thursday, Dec. 17 with new ownership.
Paul DiSpirito, proprietor of Lioni Italian Heroes in Brooklyn for 14 years, comes to Staten Island to pick up where the Benfante family left off in the spring. Yes, Lioni fresh mozzarella is sold in the shop.
“We’re keeping the name. We’re keeping the recipes. We have the same salads,” said DiSpirito.
The former, long-time owners of Dick’s 857 Castleton Avenue had shut down the business in the throes of the COVID-19 quarantine. The Benfante family purchased the deli in 1974. The business was established originally in 1928 by Adolf Dick, the store’s namesake.
TWISTED VINEYARD, STAPLETON (Facebook.com/twistedvineyardnyc)
Speaking of Dick’s Deli, the Benfante family who ran Dickie’s Deli’s former iteration opened an Italian restaurant in the home of former Paulie’s Pizzeria and Errigo’s.
NACHO MAMA, BULLS HEAD (Facebook.com/NachoMamaSI)
The new health spot features smoothies, juices and veggie-based dishes. Open earlier this fall, popular dishes include Quesadilla Burger, Flautas, and Empanadas. This vegan spot is the sister restaurant to TRI Lounge, also vegan, located in Grasmere. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].
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